December 16, 2007
Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
The third week of Advent calls us to recognize that the Age of the Messiah is here. Our Gospel text has John the Baptist and his followers seeking to understand if the Messianic Age was truly upon them. Even though John the Baptist had baptized the Lord and had proclaimed his coming, he was still not sure if the message of the prophets had actually been fulfilled.
Our first reading from the great prophet Isaiah is a call to be ready for the Age of the Messiah. Many of his day were looking for a messiah that would be a powerful political/military leader who would deliver them. However, Isiah gives the people a very different image of what type of messiah was to come. Isaiah presents the people with a Messianic Age that is one of peace and healing. A world where the least are the greatest and the wounded are healed. Isaiah is clear that the Messianic Age is not one of politics and might but one of peace and restoration of love for one another and the search for the betterment of God's creation.
Our second reading from James calls us to be ready for the return of the Messiah but also to be aware of the fact that we are living in the Messianic Age now. Yes we are looking forward to Jesus' return but we are present in the Messianic Age now and that means that there is a great deal of work to be done in preparation for the second coming.
The reality that we are living in the Age of the Messiah calls us to mission. I fear that most of us are so busy with our personal relationship with Jesus that we forget our brothers and sisters around us. To be saved and to live in the Age of the Messiah means that we are to work to transform the world in the image of Christ and not merely seek to manipulate the world into our image. We can become so wrapped up in our own pass into Heaven that we forget we are a part of the world. Being a part of the world means that we have a role in Christ's ministry. We are called to work for peace and justice, healing and reconciliation all in the name of the one who is the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
The call of the Messianic Age is to transform ourselves and then the world around us in the image of Jesus. This means change and perhaps not the change we want. I marvel as I watch the yapping heads on TV who are always mad and calling for judgment and retribution against anyone and anything they do not like. Cable news is unbearable anymore as well as radio talk. People are so angry and seem to only want revenge on those they deem their opponent. I am stunned that many of these so called "God loving" people are some of the meanest and unforgiving people around. So much for listening to James' call to be patient and not to judge. I guess peace and reconciliation doesn't pay the bills. The bigger problem is that so many of us have the same attitude in which we seek not the way of peace and service but the way of domination and control. That is not the call of the Messianic Age.
Jesus' birth, death and resurrection brought change and it wasn't necessarily the change people wanted. Jesus came so that life might flourish and be reconciled to the Father. Jesus came so that we could bring about the change that creates a world in his image and not ours.
As we approach the celebration of Christmas, I find myself pondering just how much we have left to do in preparation for Jesus' return. So many people are currently so busy claiming that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus that I fear we completely ignore the reality that Jesus is coming back and that he will expect us to have gotten a few things done like peace, justice, compassion, support of those in need, you know, the things Jesus spent his earthly ministry doing! We can sing about peace on earth, joy to the world, and all the silent nights we can handle but our words must be followed by the actions to prove the words. Our Christmas carols are not enough to bring joy to the world or peace on earth good will to all. The words must be followed by an attitude that recognizes that we are in the Age of the Messiah and that the Messiah expects us to change and be molded in his image and not our own.
Jesus came into the world so that it could change. It may not be the change that meets the demands of our agendas and we need to get over it. We must be willing to let the Messiah change our hearts, to make us vulnerable to God's great mercy so that we can be the agents of change that seek that world that Isaiah proclaimed.
I think I need to remember the line from a hymn I always find convicting. That line goes like this, "Let there peace on earth and let it begin with me". That I believe is the call of the Messianic Age.